Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell has announced the formation of a consortium that will purchase nearly the full output of synthetic diesel fuel to be produced by the nation’s first Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) plant that uses waste coal as a feedstock.
The plant, to be built by Waste Management and Processors Inc. (WMPI) of Gilberton, Schuylkill County, will produce as much as 40 million gallons of synthetic diesel annually. WMPI expects to break ground and start construction as early as spring of 2006.
The Gilberton Coal to Clean Fuels project, with an estimated price tag of $612 million, has been in the works since 2000 (at least in concept), but now the ongoing hikes in energy prices, the increased funding for CTL provided by the Energy Act, and now the purchase commitment from the state are making it viable.
We are going to be part of changing how America produces its fuel. We are going to ensure Pennsylvania has a long-term supply of clean, secure and affordable energy. Not only will Pennsylvania be the first state to build such a plant, we also will be the first state to use its purchasing power to lead a consortium to purchase some 40 million gallons of this Pennsylvania produced fuel.—Gov. Rendell
At the Governor’s direction, the state has worked with potential partners to ensure a long-term, viable market for this project and others like it. The buyers’ consortium is led by the commonwealth and private sector businesses that include Worley & Obetz Inc. and Keystone Alliance, a fuel purchase group for the trucking industry. Nearly all of the plant’s output, which can be refined for use as diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil, is locked up in principle in purchasing agreements.
Recently, representatives from the US Department of Defense (DoD) met with Governor Rendell and WMPI to discuss their interest in these fuels and the production facilities. The US Department of Defense has taken strong interest in Governor Rendell’s initiative, and Dr. William Harrison, senior advisor of DoD’s Clean Fuels Initiative in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, joined the Governor for the announcement in Harrisburg.
|The main process units for the Gilberton waste coal-to-liquids project. Click to enlarge.|
In the process, coal waste, also known as culm, is broken to create a fine material. A fine slurry of 65% coal material (carbon, hydrogen, inert material and traces of sulfur) and 35% water is pumped into a gasifier. In the gasifier, the slurry is mixed with oxygen and heated to 2,500° F to produce a syngas composed primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and a glass-like aggregate.
The syngas is cooled, cleaned and desulfurized. The cleaned syngas is then piped to a slurry phase reactor for the Fischer-Tropsch process, which produces a paraffin.
The paraffin is then distilled into a high-cetane, sulfur-free diesel fuel. The aggregate can be used in road or concrete construction, and the sulfur may be saleable.
The waste heat from the process will be used to generate 41 megawatts of low-cost electric power that will be fed into the grid. The waste heat is enough to power more than 40,000 homes.
WMPI has been in discussions with Shell Global Solutions to license its gasification technology for the plant, and with Sasol to license its Fischer-Tropsch technology.
Pennsylvania has offered significant financial incentives to make energy manufacturing a cornerstone of the state’s economic future, including $47 million in tax credits for the development of this project. The US Department of Energy has committed another $100 million in grants, and the recently passed federal energy plan singles out this project for a federal loan guarantee.